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Northwestern, Cubs announce 5-year deal at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 18: A general view east end zone goalpost mounted right field wall as Northwestern Wildcats practice for

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 18: A general view of the east end zone and a goalpost mounted to the right field wall as the Northwestern Wildcats practice for a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday November 20 at Wrigley Field on November 18, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0062520458.jpg

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Updated: February 5, 2013 5:12PM

The Cubs plan to paint their iconic marquee purple, at least metaphorically, at least once a year starting in 2013 after announcing a unique partnership with Northwestern at a press conference at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.

The Wildcats will play as many as five future football games on the corner of Clark and Addison. Wrigley Field will also host Northwestern baseball, lacrosse and other sports during a flexible-five year agreement that also calls for a reciprocal marketing.

“It has become clear there’s a lot of things we can do together,” Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney said. “Not just football games, but extensions from class rooms to board rooms to weight rooms. Our organizations have really embraced each other.”

A renovation of Wrigley Field will allow for a regulation football field, which wasn’t the case when Northwestern and Illinois played in the former Bears home in 2010.

The Big Ten decided the day before that game to use only one end zone for offense because of safety concerns. NCAA rules mandate there must be adequate space surrounding the playing surface, which wasn’t the case in the east end zone, which was within a few feet of the right-field wall.

Kenney said the Cubs have a short-term solution that includes moving a dugout roof, which would allow for a 12-foot perimeter around the field, satisfying NCAA safety requirements.

That said, it’s unlikely the Wildcats will play at Wrigley Field in 2013 for a variety of reasons. Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips said the Big Ten’s recent addition of two new members complicates future schedules and along with Wrigley renovations makes 2014 a better target date.

Wrigley will host football games in November, after the Cubs season ends.

The Northwestern baseball team will play host to Michigan on April 20 in Wrigley field this year, the seven-time national champion women’s lacrosse team in 2014 and the soccer or softball teams following in 2015.

“This will be our home game and we will select who we play against,” Phillips said when asked if Illinois could be an annual football opponent. “There’s not going to be any school we just write in and say we’re going to play them every year in the place. We want different opponents, honestly. We’d like to meet a variety of Big Ten opponents at Wrigley eventually.”

It’s the new business partnership between the team and the university that has Northwestern officials claiming this is the first deal of its kind.

Not only will the Cubs promote Northwestern throughout the season in exchange for similar treatment in and around Wrigley Field, but it will also include the university making athletic and educational facilities available to the Cubs.

The Kellogg School of Management is currently developing a curriculum for growth and development of Cubs employees and Northwestern student-athletes are already interning with the Cubs.

“We’ll always be the tiny private school in the Big Ten,” Phillips said. “We will always have 8,000 undergraduate students. The closest school to us in enrollment in the Big Ten is Iowa and they have three times our enrollment. Only Penn State has fewer alumni in the Chicago area.

“The Chicagoland area is a crowded marketplace. We have to do innovative things. We have to do creative things. We have to get Chicago sports fans to adopt Northwestern.”

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